NOTHING – Dance On the Blacktop
On Dance On the Blacktop, NOTHING burrow into the filth and double down on the harsher elements of their sound, with mixed results
NOTHING had a turbulent, violence mired birth as a band, forming out of the past crimes and misdemeanours of seeming hardcore punk lifer and frontman Domenic Palermo. But out of the murk came their second album Tired of Tomorrow, a slab of soaring shoegaze and dream-pop that succeeded in crystallising the recent revival of the genre from the scene that celebrated itself, proving that a youthful band could bring it into the 21st century, even if, so far, it was the reunions of the big three – Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine and Ride – doing the heavy lifting.
NOTHING skewed on the harsher side of the shoegaze sound even two years ago. Dance On the Blacktop doubles down on their darker side, from the grungy riffs to the creepy cover art. Palermo’s words always were mined from the deepest stretches of the soul, playing on anxiety and fear. On their previous record though, often that stunted emotion was offset by the sonics, which reached skyward. Even when the riffs were heavy, they could feel weightless, like that feeling of your stomach being left behind just as you plunge down the steepest rollercoaster drop, when gravity pulls itself from under you just for a moment, only to bring you crashing back to earth.
So some of that beauty is lost as they burrow into the filth, with the album edging close to a feathery metal sound, or even Turnover circa Cutting My Fingers Off, except with an extra helping of distortion. When bands like Deafheaven are doing so much more interesting and heart-rending things mixing shoegaze with black metal (and other genres) Dance On the Blacktop seems inconsequential in comparison. There are tracks that hit the right note – singles Zero Day and Blue Line Baby are harsh but shimmering, (HOPE) Is Just Another Word With a Hole In It skews emo and it works. Then drops Us/We/Are, the verses from which sound so uncannily like Creep, a song Radiohead has run away from for 25 years before finally embracing again, it seems an unusual well for NOTHING to draw from. While Dance On the Blacktop is a fair attempt at taking forward their sound, unfortunately, it feels more like a regression.
Listen to: Zero Day, Blue Line Baby, Plastic Migraine